When asked what a zero-per-cent budget hike could mean for the region’s library system this year, Maureen Sawa didn’t have good news.
“That would mean Sunday openings would obviously be impacted,” said the CEO of the Greater Victoria Public Library. “The Sunday service right now is already quite a challenge for us to meet.”
Library officials are seeking nearly $14 million – up $579,087 or 4.32 per cent – from 10 municipalities for the 2012 operating budget. The 2011 budget was almost $13.4 million.
The increase is due to wage and pension increases, costs to maintain the current collection and address demand for some electronic resources as well as cover computer server/phone upgrades, among other expenses.
Library officials value the Sunday schedule so much that they are hoping to one day provide it year-round, Sawa told Esquimalt council last week.
Officials are looking to bring down costs in other areas to do that, she said, but added a nearly $600,000 budget cut “would mean fairly dramatic change.”
“Sunday, to me, is a no-brainer,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.
Esquimalt’s share of the increase is $32,428 or $1.83 per capita, which she called “very modest.
“At the end of the day it’s affordability,” Desjardins said of the need to lessen the impact on taxpayers.
Times are tough for the library system, which is existing “on a string” as it copes with record-high usage – one of the highest rates in Canada, said Karel Roessingh, chair of the Greater Victoria Public Library board. The library also services five First Nations communities.
It’s recognized that people rely more on libraries in difficult times, and it’s no different in Greater Victoria, he said.
Demand for library services is clear: more than six million items circulated in 2011, e-book circulation increased from 2010 to 2011 by more than 800 per cent and more than 1.7 million children’s items circulated last year – the third highest rate in Canada.
Of the 312,000 residents in the region, 79 per cent have active library cards.
In Esquimalt, almost 13,500 out of 17,689 are active library card holders.
“It sure says that Esquimalt uses and values its library,” Desjardins said.
Library officials will be submitting the final budget by March 1 and seeking council approval by May 1.
By the numbers:
2012 budget request: $13,968,758
Projected expenses: $15,640,708, up $432,795 or 2.85 per cent
Projected revenues: $1,671,950, up $146,292 or 8.05 per cent
2011 budget: $13,389,671
Per capita proposed increase:
Central Saanich: $1.92
Oak Bay: $2.09
View Royal: $1.71
Contribution increase by municipality:
Central Saanich: $31,155
Oak Bay: $37,698
View Royal: $16,619